NASA Told Us That Houseplants Purify The Air, But Is It True?

Nature is a synonym of vegetation as it is the precursor of life and everything that lives on this planet. This general concept has made it a universal norm to associate environmental wellbeing with the propagation of vegetation. So, people believed in the houseplant sellers’ marketing that promoted them as the prime source of air purification in their households. But do houseplants really clean the air? Let’s find out.

This misconception has prevailed so much in the mainstream media that only scientific research and facts hold the power to debunk them altogether. There is no denying that plants are beneficial for our ecosystem. Still, their role as air purifiers in our houses holds no real value.

A “Dirty” Marketing Scheme

One of the recent indoor gardening trends is houseplants that are a convenient way to purify indoor air. – air purifying houseplants. But the flip side of the coin reveals that this promotional scheme has no real scientific basis.

Houseplants may complement the interior of your house and add eye-catching aesthetics to it. Still, they will do almost nothing to purify the air you breathe in your home. The scientists’ studies back up this claim that research the same air you breathe every day at your house.

You might have thought that the information you’ve found online is enough to assure that houseplants are essential for a healthy household environment. The houseplant vendors and the interior companies have also advertised several houseplant species as viable alternatives for air purifiers.

The usual selling pitch for these houseplants says that they can remove toxins and dangerous chemicals from the environment. And usually, internet-provided data backs up most of these pitches with questionable credibility and reliability.

Investigating The Researches And Facts A Bit Further

Thank goodness we have data and research proving that houseplants do nothing to improve our house’s air quality. We must investigate the research that promotes these false claims because of their limited resources.

  • Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology published a report that reviewed 12 before-published research pieces on 196 different plants. Michael Waring, an environmental engineer, wrote the report with his study partner and investigated how they impact our household environment.

One study shows that houseplants could cut about 66% of the formaldehyde exposed to in a day. Note that most of the experiments that support houseplants as air purifiers are made in a laboratory and have no credibility in the outside world.

Laboratory – A Controlled Environment

do houseplants clean the air

Almost all the 12 scientific studies reviewed plants in a controlled environment – a small chamber. This is where they exposed them to VOCs (volatile organic compounds). The density of the gas and time of exposure to VOCs have also been manipulated to make these experiments appear credible.

There are still variables that we need to test and verify before we can stamp these studies as “proven under all circumstances.”

All the experiments suggesting houseplants as air purifiers in a household have been carried out in a laboratory. These laboratories have a controlled and sanitized atmosphere that is unlike any household or indoor setting.

  • Furthermore, advertising houseplants as air purifiers use the “air-purifying houseplants NASA study” (1989) to back up their marketing campaign. In this study, several plants are in containers filled with gases and surrounded by fans. Later, it was concluded that plants in these chambers removed small quantities of VOCs.

Being Cheap Doesn’t Always Pay Off

This study might not be enough for cynical and skeptical people, but people who want to believe that it’s true also want to make the most out of this situation. They see a chance to forgo buying an air cleaner worth hundreds of dollars and buy a cheap houseplant. I WAS ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE!

We Can’t And Shouldn’t Blame The Scientists!

So, even though plants that “purify” the air from toxins are excellent, you shouldn’t grow them only because of their MINOR air-purifying abilities. It’s also great that scientists do their research and testing, but unfortunately, this is one thing that has bloated to something that it isn’t. Let’s not blame scientists either because the stuff they understand well is often misunderstood by “normal people” like us.

Counter Argument

Air purifiers are far more efficient than a houseplant as they clean your house’s environment more vigorously than the latter. The amount of toxins a single houseplant removes is nothing compared to what an average air purifier can do.

Final Words

If you want houseplants to impact your house’s air quality, you need to buy at least ten plants for a single square foot in your home. So, do houseplants clean the air? Well, yes, but the only way you can see an improvement in your household’s air quality is to fill it with thousands of plants, which will hinder the quality of your life and your household activities. Case closed.

Featured image credit – iStock.com/Tharakorn

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